More Than A Desert State

Abandoned gas station on the mountainsideThe Arizona sky is beautiful at sunset, even on a cloudless evening when admired in the windows of roadside abandonment.   When I arrived at the Schwamborn’s home the stars were vivid with the air chilled and clear.

Dale and SusanPee Wee and Susan are the sweetest and most hospitable of hosts.  After nearly three years, It was so good to see them again.  Once settled and fed a hot meal, I learned of all the exciting places they planned to take me.  Here are a few of the highlights.

Arcosanti entranceWe visited Arcosanti, an urban experiment of sorts, a self-sustaining city set on 8000 acres which, on it’s completion, is intended to support about 5000 people.

Arcosanti residences     Arcosanti common area

Arcosanta window to the worldThe brain child of Paolo Soleri, a rogue student of Frank Lloyd Wright and renowned artist in his own right, Arcosanti was a fascinating study in architecture and design.  Pee Wee, who thoroughly enjoys photography, found plenty of excellent photo ops.  As did I.

Burnishing Soleri windbellsIt’s expansion is supported through the sale of ceramic and brass bells designed by Soleri and made on the premises.

The Palace Prescott holds lots of history in its streets, the earliest of which might have been “Whiskey Row”, and the Palace Saloon, whose roots go into the days of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday.  

Memorabilia at the PalaceThe walls are lined with memorabilia, a museum of sorts.  

Who is at the bar?You might even see characters from the past stopping in for refreshment and relaxation.

DSC_0459  DSC_0456

I learned that not all Arizona is simply a flat to rolling hot desert as I had always believed.  Within a 65 mile radius the Schwamborns took me everywhere from crystal blue lakes to snow-covered mountains to scenes rivaling the Grand Canyon.   I never knew Arizona had so much topographical variety.

Arizona mini glacier   Arizona wilderness

We scrambled through the wilderness near Dewey, where the terrain is rough without a trail and  glacial-like ice packs nestle in the crevices.  Sunshine played hide and seek with the rocks.

Trail head near Munds ParkWe drove to the remote edge of Munds Park, covered in nearly a foot of snow in some spots.  The road dead-ends to where one can pick up trails into the forest.

Verde ValleyComing back down overlooking the Verde Valley and it feels like one can see forever.

Overlooking SedonaSedona was breathtaking.

Sedona topographyThe colors and contrast of the rock formations against the vegetation are amazing, nature’s work of art.

A wise old tree in SedonaI found that wise old trees exist in Arizona.  The twisted trunk of this old soul was weathered by wind in sand to where the trunk was as smooth as silk in spots, yet intricately textured in others.

Chapel in the red rocksThere is a chapel nestled high up in the rock in Sedona, The Chapel of the Holy Cross, which was built the same year as Elvis,  in 1956.

Chapel of the Holy Cross  Peace to all who enter

It is a treasure in mid-century design, but more importantly, it is a spiritual place.  It doesn’t matter what you believe or who you believe in.

Chapel InteriorWhen you walk in the door you will know that it is a house of peace.  It is simple, profoundly moving, and beautiful.

Hotel Conner Ruins of Jerome Hotel

In spite of waning daylight, we went high into the mountain to Jerome, an old mining town that is alive and crumbling all at the same time.

Winery on a cliff in Jerome Jail or storeroom? Abandoned HousePractically clinging to the mountainside, it is an eclectic community and a visual delight if you enjoy exploring and imagining what once was.

Twilight in Jerome The bones of the old hotel saloon in Jerome

Jerome’s architecture is diverse and the remnants retain a few traces of what must have been its glory days.

Jerome Flamingoes

One the way down the mountain I found that flamingoes even frequent the high country of Arizona.  But they wear a most unusual costume at these elevations.

Cottonwod EateryWe swung through old town Cottonwood on the way home.  There is an old gas station turned eatery that draws a lot of attention.

The Schwamborn's bay windowAfter coffee Saturday morning in their big bay window, my favorite spot in the Schwamborn house,  I headed towards Phoenix to grab a hotel room and catch a flight the next morning.  

FlyfsherNear Phoenix I had the privilege of meeting Brad Norgaard, fellow Tradewind owner, for lunch.  It was wonderful to thank him in person for his kindness and support when I was first learning the ropes of Airstream ownership.  Among other things, of course, we talked about all things Airstream.

Brad's 1959 TradewindBrad’s 1959 Tradewind is nearly all original and he shared some interesting and very useful features he has added that would be great for my own Airstreams.  

secrets to organizing an Airstream  Brad inside his Tradewind

His Airforums handle is Flyfsher and you can catch his blog at ’59 Tradewind.  If you ever meet Brad and his lovely wife Julie on the road, you are in for a treat.

Thanks to the Schwamborns, the stereotypical desert state visual of Arizona has been blown out of the water for me.  It wasn’t until approaching Phoenix that I saw some of the Arizona I had always envisioned.  Arizona, I will come back again, one day.

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